Friday, 19 June 2015

51 and a half.

Today, someone asked me to tell them how old I think I am.  It was in an argument about whether we should use age as a classifier for a shared or common interest.  Her view is that actual age in years from birth is only used to reinforce prejudice and that what she refers to as true age can only be determined by a number of factors, including health conditions.  I think, in a roundabout way, she has fully embraced the old saying about being as old as you feel.

Well anyway, here's the answer I gave her.
...  In my head I feel as though I'm still very young with a huge amount about people and this beautiful planet still to learn.  However, also in my head, I also recognise just how much about people I have learned, how deep my respect runs for the individualism of every person, every culture, and every creed - or no creed.  I still laugh at toilet humour as I did when I was a child, but I'm also very proud of the fact that I have a child of my own who is growing into a deeply thoughtful, caring young man.  Instead of fearing the way each second ticks by, bringing me closer to the parting of ways, I embrace every birthday knowing that the previous year has taught me so very much, and brought me so much joy and pain, laughter and tears, because I am still alive to watch the clouds.

My body is a different matter.  The mantra of my doctors since I was 22 has been "but you're too young... oh" as they've read test results.  At 42, I was told I had the hips of an 80 year old.  "OK, well she can have them back any time" was my reply.  Nevertheless, whatever my body or mind may think, I am 51 1/2 years old because a year is 365 days long and I have lived through 51 years and 6 months exactly today :-)

And then I asked the mods to close the thread because it was so far off topic.

I don't think age should only be defined as a way of segregating people, although sometimes doing so can be beneficial if that's what the individual wants.  However discrimination and prejudice prosper not because we define other people in ways in which we differ, physically or in any other way.  They exist and are fed because people in our society have, for centuries, delineated each other by determining that some of these inherent, beautiful differences are less attractive, less powerful, or at the most basic level, less human than others.  I don't think I need to elucidate on that.  The shame is that so long after one man persuaded his country that one entire such classification of human beings needed to be wiped out in its entirety, we are still doing it.

Maybe it's some amygdalean danger trigger that makes us see the difference before we see the similarities.  Maybe that's why racism, genderism, ageism, religionism are so easily fanned into the flames of hatred.  Maybe we all need to just train our responses a little better so that our immediate response to difference isn't fear, but acceptance that humanity comes in all shapes, sizes, colours, beliefs, and ages.

Monday, 1 June 2015

One year on...

Well, almost.

By this time last year, I had moved into my mother's bedroom.  I slept on a recliner chair as close to her bed as I could get, and we would hold hands for most of the night.

She had started sleeping with the lamp on, didn't want it switched off.  So I lowered it to the floor on the other side of the bed.  The muted light warmed the pink walls, made her look beautiful, and reassured both of us without stopping us from sleeping.  She would wake up several times a night, and I would feed her water with thickeners in, or squash, or even a cup of tea thickened to gloopiness.  This stopped her choking by slowing down its passage over the back of her tongue.  She would pull a really funny "That Is YUK" face, and I would say "I know, I know".  She would whisper "thank you" as I put the drink back down on her bedside.

Sometimes I would wake to find her sitting on the edge of the bed.  I would sit next to her, and the imbalance in our weight would make her tip onto my breast.  I would hold her like a child, kiss the top of her head, and give her back a very gentle massage.  "This is heaven", she would try to say.  She would reach over and rest her hand in my lap, the closest she could get to cuddling me back.  Then I would carefully help her back into bed, lifting her legs and making sure her pillows were comfortable.  With my kiss on her forehead, she would sigh herself back into sleep.

As June 2014 broke, she had lost the ability to move unaided.  Her skin had become extremely sensitive to touch.  The nurses explained this was because her body was channelling all its dwindling energy into keeping her internal organs functioning.  She had virtually stopped eating, not completely, but only one or two spoonfuls of yoghurt 2 or 3 times a day.  Her medication was stopped because she could no longer swallow the tablets, and they no longer had a life-saving or enhancing function to perform.

Her speech had become very limited.  "I love you" and "Thank you" still outnumbered in frequency "It's hurting", but not by much.  She was still smiling, in between ever-longer bouts of sleepiness.  On one very early morning, she said "Give me joy, give me peace" and so I sang the hymn to her, the opening hymn at our wedding.

During the days, Peg, Margaret and I would sit and chat around her bed.  Sometimes hushed, but often normally, and frequently laughing.  Mum would smile in her sleep.  I remember using a hostess trolley to serve tea and coffee, and getting a belly laugh from both sisters.  It worked for me!  There were no tea spills that day!

But looking back through a year of blurs to a time I can see so very clearly, feel so piercingly, I relive the joy of being told that I had become a wonderful woman and that she was so very proud of me; the pain of watching my dearest, closest friend slip away; the comfort of knowing that she wanted me there, and that I could be useful.

Mum died on 10 June 2014.  ELO's Mr Blue Sky was playing on the radio, and Peggy was in the shower.  The Macmillan nurses and the district nurse turned up 2 seconds after I had called to Peggy to come now, and rang Margaret.  We held her hands, stroked her hair, and said our goodbyes as she gently left us.

Today I can describe these events with tears on my face and pain so fierce that I can't breathe for it.  I can never look away from her eyes, her smile, the love which was tangible as it poured from her face.  My gentle mother, my lifeblood, my soul, how I miss you.